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Making Sense of Drug Regulation: A Theory of Law for Drug Control Policy


Kimani Paul-Emile


Fordham University School of Law

January 21, 2010

Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 19, 2010
Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1523401

Abstract:     
This article advances a new theory of drug regulation that addresses two previously unexamined questions: how law-makers are able to regulate drugs differently irrespective of the dangers the drugs may pose and independent of their health effects, and the process followed to achieve this phenomenon. For example, although tobacco products are the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. they can be bought and sold legally by adults, while marijuana, a substantially safer drug, is subject to the highest level of drug control. This article posits a conceptual model for making sense of this dissonance and applies this model to the regulation of four common drugs: cocaine, marijuana, tobacco and anabolic steroids. Although much has been written on the topic of licit and illicit drug regulation, none of the scholarship in this literature has attempted to explain through an examination of pharmaceutical, illicit, and over-the-counter drugs how the apparent inconsistencies and incoherence of the U.S. system of drug control have been achieved and sustained. This work fills the gap in this literature by proposing an innovative and comprehensive theoretical model for understanding how drugs can become “medicalized,” “criminalized” or deemed appropriate for recreational use, based upon little or no empirical evidence regarding the pharmacodynamics of the drug.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 61

Keywords: drugs, drug regulation, norms, race, tobacco, regulation

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Date posted: December 17, 2009 ; Last revised: April 15, 2010

Suggested Citation

Paul-Emile, Kimani, Making Sense of Drug Regulation: A Theory of Law for Drug Control Policy (January 21, 2010). Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 19, 2010; Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1523401. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1523401

Contact Information

Kimani Paul-Emile (Contact Author)
Fordham University School of Law ( email )
140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
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